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Foxx Says H.R. 1065 ‘Is a Win for Big Government’

Today, Education and Labor Committee Republican Leader Virginia Foxx (R-NC) spoke in opposition to the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (H.R. 1065), which delivers an unnecessary blow to religious organizations, potentially forcing them to make hiring decisions that conflict with their faith.

On the House floor today, Foxx delivered the following remarks:

"House Republicans have long supported protections in federal law for all workers, including pregnant workers, and we believe employers should provide reasonable workplace accommodations for pregnant workers — empowering them to achieve their highest potential. I speak not only as a concerned Congresswoman on this issue, but also as a mother and grandmother. Discrimination of any type should not be tolerated, and no one should ever be denied an opportunity because of unlawful discrimination.

"That is why I support meaningful protections under federal law to prevent workplace discrimination, including federal laws that rightfully protect pregnant workers.

"The Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act are examples. These federal laws already ensure workers are not being discriminated against and receive reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

"I agree with the underlying principle of H.R. 1065 and appreciate the bipartisan negotiations that took place during the 116th Congress to get this bill to where it is today.

"And I am pleased to see the changes we negotiated last Congress were incorporated in the legislative text this time around.

"When the bill was introduced last Congress, it did not require that a pregnant worker — in order to be eligible for an accommodation — be able to perform the essential functions of the job with a reasonable accommodation. This is a sensible provision now included in the bill.

"A definition of 'known limitations' related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions was also initially omitted. The bill now includes such a definition, including a requirement that employees communicate the known limitation to the employer. This provision will help workers and their employers understand their rights and responsibilities.

"Additionally, the bill introduced last Congress appeared to allow employees a unilateral veto over offered accommodations. However, the bill now clarifies that reasonable accommodations will typically be determined through a balanced and interactive dialogue between workers and employers.
"The bill introduced last Congress also did not include a limitation on applicability to employers with 15 or more employees — as is the case in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act — but it now includes the 15-employee threshold.
"Finally, the bill now includes a provision that if an employer makes a good faith effort to determine a reasonable accommodation through the interactive process with the employee, the employer is not liable for damages.

"Unfortunately, there is one key provision missing from this bill. One of the core tenets of the Constitution is the guarantee of religious freedom. For the last 240 years, the Supreme Court has upheld that principle in its decisions, and laws written by Congress have maintained strong protections for religious liberty. Yet, the bill we are discussing today deals an unnecessary blow to religious organizations, potentially forcing them to make hiring decisions that conflict with their faith.

"Our job in the People’s House is not to defy the Constitution, but to uphold it. No employer should have to choose between abiding by the law and adhering to their religious beliefs. That is why Republicans offered an amendment in Committee that would include a narrow but long-standing provision from the Civil Rights Act that is not currently incorporated in this bill. Committee Democrats voted down this common-sense amendment. I also submitted the same amendment to the Rules Committee so that it could be debated today, but the Democrats prevented me from offering it. As a result, I cannot in good conscience vote in favor of this legislation.

"I want to reiterate that I am pleased with the bipartisan negotiations that took place on H.R. 1065. When we work together, we can effect real change. But I will never support any bill that infringes on the Constitution and I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to do the same. Taking away rights from our citizens is not a win for the American people, it’s a win for big government."

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